MosquitoMosquitoAlthough some 36 species of mosquitoes have been recorded in the Cayman Islands, the ‘Black Salt-Marsh mosquito’ is by far the most abundant and most of our efforts are directed at controlling this species. This mosquito breeds mainly in the swamps where the female lays her eggs in the mud. When the rains come and the water levels rise, they hatch in large numbers and fly off in search of a meal. They may travel for several miles away from the area where they hatched.

The older Caymanians who remember the days before there was a mosquito eradication and control program describe unbearable conditions when dealing with the pests. After sunset they had to carry a "smoke-pot" to help keep them at bay and this consisted of some kind of metal container or pail in which they burned various types of wood and even dried cow dung. Children often had to carry a "smoke-pot" to school, even in the daylight hours. The older folk describe conditions whereby you could close your hand to make a fist and literally squash dozens of mosquitoes.

The Cayman Islands could never had developed into a tourist destination under those conditions and in 1965 Dr. Marco Giglioli introduced a eradication and control program and the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, MRCU was formed. Dr. Giglioli arrived from the UK with instructions ‘to establish a laboratory and conduct research with a view to advising the Cayman Government on suitable methods of control.’ The Mosquito Research and Control Unit aims to help Cayman Islands residents by reducing mosquito nuisance and protecting against mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue which are common in the region.

Most female mosquitoes have to feed on an animal and get a sufficient blood meal before she can develop eggs. If they do not get this blood meal, then they will die without laying viable eggs. However, some species of mosquitoes have developed the means to lay viable eggs without getting a blood meal. Male mosquitoes feed only on plant juices. Female mosquitoes feed on man, domesticated animals, such as cattle, horses, goats, etc; all types of birds including chickens; all types of wild animals including deer, rabbits; and they also feed on snakes, lizards, frogs, and toads.

Female mosquitoes are attracted to heat, perspiration on your skin, body odor, and even the emissions of carbon dioxide from your breath. As soon as a mosquito lands on you it will immediately penetrate the skin with their sharp, thin proboscis (or mouth part) and begin taking your blood. Their saliva contains proteins, digestive enzymes, and anticoagulants (to prevent your blood from clotting). Once done feeding, she withdraws her proboscis and flies away.

All of this takes just a few seconds and you're left with the uncomfortable after-effects of her feeding. Some saliva remains in the wound and the proteins at the site provoke an immune response from your body. The redness, swelling, and bump are all responses to the mosquito's saliva in your blood stream and the saliva is what makes the bite itch so much. The swelling will usually go away before the itch; that only remains until your immune cells break it down and remove the foreign agent from your blood stream. As long as that itch exists, you'll never forget about that little winged lady who sucked your blood.